I had a good conversation with my Dad last evening. He really seemed with it, chatting away about my son (Elliott) who is travelling at the moment. He even remembered Elliott is in India and they have temples there, not churches. I was quite encouraged.
Technically Dad doesn’t have dementia; he suffers from Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH). However, dementia is one of the initial presenting symptoms so NPH is often miss-diagnosed, as it was in his case. By the time the doctors realised what he had, he was suffering from the more advanced symptoms of a gait disorder, constant falls and occasional incontinence.
As hard as all that is, Dad remains cheerful. His form of dementia is completely different to Mum’s. She struggles to complete a sentence without stopping to search for a word or wondering what it was she was going to say. Whereas Dad can hold a completely intelligent and normal conversation with you in the moment but 10 minutes later he will have forgotten the content.
Usually he has a joke or a story to tell. Today’s was about how he had convinced Mum that her being told she should no longer drive is no bad thing. He told her that she now gets to do lots of exciting thing like using her bus pass and riding in a taxi! He said that Mum seemed to have accepted his story, at least for now. Bless him; he would do anything to make her happy – more about why that is a mystery to us, another time.
Just as I was thinking he was having a really good day he asked me what day it was. “Friday”, I replied. Then he said what he needed was a big calendar so that he could tick the days off each morning. (He’s living in hope that his next hospital appointment with the Neurosurgeon will mean relief from some of his symptoms.)
“That’s a really good idea”, I said. Although I doubt he will remember to use it, I think it is best to encourage him to manage his memory as much as possible. After all it must be horrid not even knowing what day of the week it is.
I think this is one of the most difficult aspects, for us and for him. Dad understands he is not OK but so much wants to be the man he was; intelligent and funny. When he says something like, “Its Tuesday today, isn’t it?” and you have to tell him, “No, it’s Friday”, he is terribly embarrassed. But he’s got such a great attitude that he soon turns it around with a laugh, saying, “Silly old fool that I am…”
Click here for a link to the NPH Awareness leaflet if you are concerned that a loved one might have NPH.